Spread the love

It strikes me now how strange it was that I went around wearing an engagement ring from a dead man. But it was hard for me to accept that Steve was gone. In the final weeks of his life, he was in so much pain that he could bear only light kisses, so in bed each night we held hands like shy teenagers. With my hand clutching his as we fell asleep, I had half-convinced myself that when his soul slipped away, I would be carried along with him. After he died, I was momentarily surprised to find myself still alive.

One day, about a year after Steve died, I took my ring off to wash dishes and set it on the windowsill. After drying my hands, I picked up the ring, but something stopped me from slipping it back on. There was nothing different about that day, though I had recently turned 28 and had bought a house.

Time was moving forward, but I was still tethered to a past, with no promise of a return to it, or of a future. Wearing that diamond, I was forever engaged, in nuptial limbo, a phantom relationship: The heart goes on loving long after its object is gone. I was betrothed but never to wed. The origin of the word betrothed is “truth,” but the ring was a lie. I could not “engage” with Steve for the simple reason that he was not alive.

At first, I felt guilty tucking the ring in my jewelry box, wedged in a fold of red velvet, especially as I saw the diamond every day when I dressed for work. But over time it was liberating, my hands free and unencumbered with the heaviness of the ring and all it symbolized.

At the end of his life, Steve told me he wanted me to find someone else to love. I always answered that I didn’t want anyone else. After he died, I believed wholly that I would never fall in love again. I couldn’t imagine it, couldn’t envision it. But three years later, to my surprise, I did fall in love, and after that relationship ended, I fell in love again, and then again. But I have never married so I have never again been formally engaged, with a ring to seal the deal.

Now, decades later, I still have the ring. Occasionally, when I open my fireproof lockbox to store documents, I see the ring in its small black box, in a baggie with the certificate from LeRoy’s Jewelers, guaranteeing that the diamond was cut and polished “by a master craftsman” who created a “gem of complete beauty.”

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